A concrete idea for water pumps

The water pump is based on a diaphragm design and is activated by the cow when she pushes it with her nose.
The water pump is based on a diaphragm design and is activated by the cow when she pushes it with her nose.
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

Wexford man Jim Ryan has hit on the clever idea of mounting an animal operated water pump on to a pre-cast concrete block for added stability.

Jim, who is a drystock farmer, said the set-up allows both large and small cattle drink the water from the nearby river without polluting the water course.

The water pump is based on a diaphragm design and is activated by the cow when she pushes it with her nose. Similar nose water pumps are available from farm shops around the country. Jim's innovation is to mount the pump on to a concrete weight to ensure bigger cattle are unable to push it around the field.

Jim says the height from the base of the block to the trough is about 30 inches, and it has been working really well on his farm so far.

Lots of farmers use streams, springs and ponds to water livestock. It can be convenient and easy, but it's not always the best for animal health and can lead to river bank erosion and pollution. But nose pumps can be quick to install, portable and relatively inexpensive.

As the name suggests, nose pumps work when the animal pushes a lever with its nose. Each press of the lever draws about a litre of water into the trough from a water source. A pump can serve about 20 cow-calf pairs. They are most suited to dry stock or dairy cows, but young calves can have difficulty due to height differences.

The major advantages are that the pump does not require a power source since it is animal activated, and it is compliant with the GLAS river bank regulations.

Jim says the unit mounted on a concrete weight is a perfect height for most of his cattle.

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"Some farmers have been mounting the pump on an old tractor tyre, but found this set-up is too light and is often too low down, especially when it comes to heavier cattle or bulls who can easily push it around a field," he explains.

The nose water pump can lift water over 10ft high. The pipe in the river is fitted with a filter and a non-return valve. Jim said it is a very simple job to fit and he bought it from a local farm shop in Wexford.

It cost Jim €50 to buy the precast concrete block from Drumderry Agri in Bunclody. The drinking unit and pump, including piping and fittings, comes in at around €320, taking the total cost for the set-up to about €370.

Jim thinks the pump will pay for itself very quickly and feels the system could suit thousands of farmers who are worried about rising electricity and water costs.

"Those with natural water courses on their farms can take advantage," he says. "You are also doing your bit for the environment by keeping rivers cleaner. The cattle learn how to use the drinker very quickly; it appears to be intuitive to them."

Nose pump manufacturers say animals new to nose pumps will need a little training. You don't have to train the entire herd, though; start with a small group of 10 to 15 animals and make sure their only source of water is the nose pump.

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